John Sanders, right, perfoms with cast members during rehearsal of Theatre Albany’s production of “Return to the Forbidden Planet.” Cast members, from left, are Whitney Scanling, Courtney Lawson, Jared Cotton, Rachel Riemke, T.A. Gatling, Jennifer Henson and Joseph Solano.
ALBANY, Ga. — The plot twists and language of William Shakespeare have traveled through time and, at least in a theatrical sense, space.
All the way to a forbidden planet, where they have added a new dimension — great oldies rock ‘n’ roll.
Theatre Albany is wrapping up its season by blasting off to “Return to the Forbidden Planet,” a musical retelling of the classic 1956 science fiction film, “Forbidden Planet.”
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The two-weekend production opens Friday evening.
The 1950s was a decade in which outer space captured the imagination and the box office. Some of the films that debuted were “Queen from Outer Space,” “I Married a Monster from Outer Space,” “Teenagers From Outer Space” and classics “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
“Forbidden Planet,” a quest to rescue shipwrecked explorers from Earth, has been one of the most highly regarded films of the era, largely because the story borrows heavily from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and had a solid cast, including Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen (in his dramatic acting days before “Airplane” and his second career as a comedic actor, most notably the “Naked Gun” film series’ Lt. Frank Drebin).
Young moviegoers of the time, who had yet to be exposed the special effects advancements that started with the 1960s “Star Trek” television series, were enamored with Robbie the Robot, the prototype for a long string of robotic characters in subsequent sci-fi offerings.
The movie was revived into a 1989 musical by Bob Clark, with a new cast of characters engaged in a similar quest. Infused with rock hits from the 1950s and ‘60s, “Return to the Forbidden Planet” opened to acclaim in London and landed the Olivier Award for Best Musical. The show includes tunes such as “It’s a Man’s World,” “Great balls of Fire,” “Good Vibrations,” “Teenager in Love,” “Young Girl,” “Gloria,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and “Wipeout.”
The story of “Return” involves the crew of the Scientific Survey Flight Nine, which is under the command of the appropriately named Capt. Tempest (portrayed by John Sanders in the Theatre Albany production). Theatre Albany newcomer Rachel Riemke portrays his science officer (read more about Riemke in today’s “On Stage With ...” interview).
The routine mission is interrupted when Tempest’s ship crash-lands onto the planet D’Illyria, where the crew encounters sinister scientist Dr. Prospero (William C. Searcy), his delightful daughter Miranda (Chelsie Battle), roller-skating robot Ariel (Johann Chancey) and an invisible, uncontrollable monster.
Love blossoms between Tempest and Miranda, while the ship’s cook, Cookie (Jared Cotton) is also smitten by her. And, of course, there is much treachery afoot as the crew attempts to get off D’Illyria before it is destroyed.
The Theatre Albany cast includes T.A. Gatling, Jennifer Henson, Courtney Lawson, Whitney Coleman Scanling and Joe Solano, with Karla Heath Sands making a special appearance as a newscaster.
Artistic Director Mark Costello is handling the staging, Steve Scott is vocal director, Samantha Lee Helton is the choreographer and Mary Lou Beasley serves as the stage manager. Steve Felmet has designed the sets, Brian Perkins and Randy Landers are providing video and Ann Brim Streat and Karen Spicer McNally are handling the makeup and hair.
Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and June 13-15, and 2:30 p.m. June 9 and 16. For ticket information, contact the theater box office at (229) 439-7141.